October 20, 2019

Housing basics: How long do things last, what is the return on upgrades


2019 NETAR President

It is a hard, cold fact of life that the Tri-Cities area housing inventory and the region’s demographic have a lot in common. A good portion of both are getting a little long in the tooth. In fact, 28 percent of the homes in the four-county Kingsport-Bristol Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and 24 percent of those in the three county Johnson City MSA are Social Security age – they are 65 years-old or older.

 The Kingsport-Bristol MSA comprises Hawkins and Sullivan counties in NE Tenn. and Scott and Washington counties in SW Va. The Johnson City MSA comprises Carter, Washington, and Unicoi counties. Together they are the Johnson City, Kingsport, Bristol TN VA Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA). The area monitored by the Northeast Tennessee Association of Realtors (NETAR) is the seven counties in the Tri-Cities region plus Johnson, Greene counties in NE Tenn. and Lee, and Wise counties in SW Va.

The age of the region’s housing stock is important in real estate transactions because all-too-often a home’s age has a lot to do with marketing.

Most existing home buyers prefer something that is 10 years-old or newer. More often than not, upgrades and maintenance on these homes is not a big factor, but most local homes are older. Approximately 15 percent of the homes in Kingsport-Bristol and 16 percent of those in the Johnson City MSA fit in the preferred age range.

There is nothing wrong with older homes. Many have good bones and a charm lacking in some newer homes. The caveat is older homes that have seen some tender loving care can be a good buy. More homes would sell faster, if this was the case, but that’s not always the case. Upgrades and maintenance are often postponed.

A couple years ago, the National Association of Homebuilders surveyed manufactures, trade associations, and researchers for a report they called “The Life Expectancy of Home Components.” Google the report for a link to a downloadable pdf. It offers tips on things to consider when looking at older homes.  The following is an excerpt from the report.

Refrigerators last from nine to 13 years, while ranges are typically good anywhere from 13 to 17 years. Washers and dryers have a lifespan of five to 13 years and dishwashers nine years. These are the most common upgrades when an older home goes on the market, but there is more to the game than appliances.

Here are some of the big-ticket items to consider:

Fiber cement shingles have a life span of about 25 years while asphalt shingle/composition roofs last about 20 years.

While the lifespan of decks varies, a wood deck can last from 10 to 15 years here in the South.

Wood floors can last up to 100 years, but most carpets need to be replaced every eight to 10 years.

Aluminum gutters have a lifespan of about 20 years.

Another important research item is the National Association of Realtors’ annual Remodeling Impact Report. It pegs the median cost of things like installing a new roof compared with an estimated cost recovery amount.

For example, a new roof that costs $7,500 has an estimated cost recovery of $8,000 at sale. Roof replacement is the inimitable payoff of any single home renovation project in the most current study which can be found at

Both reports are good resources, especially when combined with the market knowledge and experience of a local Realtor®.

NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It’s the largest trade association in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region representing over 1,300 members and 100 affiliates involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Pending sales, monthly Trends Reports, and the regional market analytics can be found on the NETAR websites at .